Ever heard of a femtocell
? Sprint's AIRAVE
, AT&T's 3G MicroCell
and Verizon's Wireless Extender all fall into that category, and they all serve one main purpose: to extend cellphone signal range into your home. They're basically made for those who have terrible in-home cell service. You just plug the box into your broadband Internet connection, and then it creates a "mini tower" or sorts within your home. Magically, you'll get 5 bars of service, and your calls are routed out through the Internet. It's a pretty amazing piece of technology, but the most useful potential was squashed by the major producers so far: international calling.
If there were no blocks on these devices, you could (in theory) connect it to an internet connection overseas, and then have signal wherever you are without relying on foreign networks and paying hefty roaming fees. But of course, carriers won't let that happen. Or will they? Ubiquisys has just announced a new "personal femtocell," with the Attocell being a very compact version of a femtocell that is actually built to work in international situations. The company hopes that this USB-enabled device will allow users to tap into the Web connection that their laptop is using overseas, and then it will figure out where it is in the world and generate a pathway for your phone to make calls through it.
Some regions will only allow a very small amount of output, but you can always set your phone directly beside the dongle and then use a Bluetooth headset to complete a call. It's hard to say if data access will also be included, and we haven't heard if there will be any fees to use this internationally. It's expected to fully launch at Mobile World Congress next month, and hopefully more details (including pricing) will be revealed there.
3G Mini femtocell shown here
Ubiquisys Announces World’s First Attocell: a Personal Femtocell for the iPhone
Allows international travellers to make and receive mobile calls as if in their home country
Swindon, UK: Ubiquisys, the developer of 3G and LTE intelligent cells, today announced the world’s first attocell – a personal femtocell. Designed primarily for people travelling abroad, it enables mobile calls to be made and received as though in their home country. Although developed specifically for the iPhone, the attocell works out of the box with any 3G phone, and has also been tested with Blackberry, Nokia and Android Smartphones. Ubiquisys is already in discussions with several mobile operators about the product.
The attocell connects to a user’s laptop via USB, which provides power and an internet connection. It then analyses the IP address and radio environment to determine which country it is in, and sets its 3G radio power accordingly to below the licenced level. In some countries its range will be just 5mm, in other countries, it could cover a whole room.
Like Ubiquisys femtocells, the attocell continuously monitors its radio environment to ensure that there is zero impact on existing mobile networks. This intelligence, combined with its tiny power output, is likely to make the attocell exempt from regulatory controls and the requirement for type approval.
In 5mm mode, the traveller simply lays the iPhone on top of the device and the phone connects automatically, just like a regular femtocell. Calls can be made using a Bluetooth or wired headset , or by using the iPhone’s speaker.
“At Ubiquisys we are constantly developing new ways to harness intelligent cell technology,” said Chris Gilbert, CEO Ubiquisys. “The attocell innovation is a direct response to meet a specific requirement from mobile operators.”
The company will showcase the attocell to customers in Barcelona, at February’s Mobile World Congress, from their hospitality suite AV85.